Handheld radio is a useful item of safety yacht equipment on board. It helps to stay in contact with other vessels and the coastal authorities. What’s more important, radio communication is more reliable than mobile one. Mobile phones have limited reception even in coastal areas, what can we say about naval ones as whole. This is why all the yachts must be equipped with radio.Marine Expert suggests you learn more about handheld radios, their advantages and features. 

What is a handheld radio? Handheld radio is a portable device with an integrated battery and antenna. So it can work autonomously from anywhere on board and can be used even in small boats.

You can possibly face a choice of what to buy: a handheld radio or permanently installed radio set. Of course, a permanent radio is more reliable. On the other hand, if the installation of a radio system takes too much space, a portable radio device can replace it on board your yacht. However, in the best case and to provide the maximal reliability, you shouldn't rely only on handheld radio.

Handheld radios in inshore waters. According to the law of the European Union, using handheld radios is prohibited in inshore waters. However, for example, in Germany you can use them for on-board communication only. In the UK you can use it in inland waterways.

Open sea usage. Handheld radios are permitted in open seas. Some of these radios have a DSC controller and GPS receiver which allows the use of DSC emergency communication.


  • Autonomy: it doesn’t depend on on-board power source 
  • Portability: has its own battery and antenna; can be used anywhere on boards and even can be taken to a life raft
  • Price: it is significantly lower than permanently installed radio set


  • Smaller range: max range for handheld radios is 8 miles: even if your handheld radio has 6 W transmitting power, it will not be much grated than 1 W one in comparison
  • Power limited by battery capacity
  • Water resistance: sometimes handheld radios can fall overboard. Some manufacturers develop floatable devices with water resistance. However, these radios usually have smaller batteries

Batteries. Handheld radios use integrated batteries. Their runtime is limited and these radios require regular charging. Batteries usually work between 7 and 20 hours. Battery life is influenced by transmission frequency, antenna length and whether a GPS receiver is installed. As we have already mentioned, floatable radios have smaller batteries.

Displays. Usually, there are 2 kinds of displays for handheld radios: 7-segment LCD one and dot matrix one. LCD displays are more simple and cost less. There are 7 display dashes for showing numbers. They have a limited amount of display options. Dot matrix ones have small dots instead of dashes to make the symbols and numbers better seen. The more dots (pixels) are, the better a display is.

DSC and GPS. Some handheld radios have an integrated GPS receiver which can display your positioning data. DSC function is used for fast help calls in emergency cases. It sends the information on your boat, skipper, distress contacts and the exact GPS position to the appropriate coastal authorities as well as other boats with DSC capabilities. 

Other functionality:

  • Illumination. An illuminated display makes it easier to operate the radio. Some devices have illuminated buttons too. Of course, the illumination influences the battery’s working hours.
  • Charging. Most radios are charged a 12 V. A correspondent charger is always included in the delivery contents. Some radios can be charged by USB and cigarette lighter chargers. A 220 V AC adapter or a quick charger will be also very useful.
  • External equipment. Some radios can be used with other microphones, antennas, batteries.
  • Useful features. Some radios have a key lock, low battery alarm, preferred channel and noise cancellation functions.

As you can see, a handheld radio will be a useful part of your yachting equipment. It makes on-board communication more convenient and fast. What’s more, it is an extra insurance for a mounted radio device or it can replace it on small yachts and boats. 

Marine Expert offers you only time-checked and approved handheld radios for your yachts and boats to give you more confidence and safety.